You don’t have to tell me. I know.
What you want more than anything in life is for me to be your mentor.
I can certainly understand why. Considering the complete mess you’ve made in what we laughingly call “your career,” you need someone successful, sympathetic and, if I say so myself, pretty darn good-looking to whom you can come sniveling when you need help.
Unfortunately, while I would love to pull you from the insect-infested swamp that is your work life, I am too busy mentoring an elderly heiress, who needs help finding worthy recipients for her money, as well as a rescue goldfish, who, with my guidance, has a chance of reaching its full potential.
This is where Steve Cadigan comes in with his recent post on forbes.com, “Finding A Mentor Might Be Easier Than You’re Making It.”
As Cadigan writes, “in today’s fast-paced work environment, you’re not going to have the time or the resources to handle every challenge on your own. It’s important to have a well-curated network that you can count on for guidance.”
You may think the author’s use of “network” suggests that one mentor is not enough. Indeed, this is his position.
“It’s better to have multiple mentors as opposed to one,” he says.
While there is no question that a person as clueless as you probably does need more than one mentor, it could be a barrier to creating that sacred mentor-mentee bond. How will your Mr. or Ms. Perfect Mentor feel when tell them, “You do understand that we won’t be exclusive. I will be seeing other mentors.”
Assuming your moral code allows this kind of lose behavior, you could be on your way to assembling what British consultant Zella King calls a “personal boardroom.” This requires “developing real relationships with a small group of people who can really help you succeed and thrive professionally.”
Considering the fact that you are already 100 percent occupied with your very real relationships with your TV, your refrigerator and your couch, it may be difficult to open your world to anyone else.
This is especially true when you understand that one member of your “personal boardroom” is “someone who challenges you.” If you wanted someone to challenge you, you’d still be watching “The Leftovers.”
The idea of appointing “someone who inspires you” is also problematic. The people who inspire you are going to be too rich and too lazy to climb out of their hammocks when the butler comes to tell them that you’re on the phone.
This leaves you with a personal boardroom of one — someone who is “well connected and can introduce you to others.”
Another bad idea. The fact that no one knows you is probably your No. 1 asset when it comes to getting another job. If you do run into a mentor who will help you with introductions, have them introduce you to someone who would be truly useful, like a genius bartender who really knows their way around an artisanal Negroni.
“Variety is the key” is another guiding rule when populating your mentor network. “It is important to have someone in your corner who is different than you.” I don’t agree. Who wants a mentor who doesn’t complain, doesn’t gossip and actually does some work?
Perhaps the most difficult part of finding a mentor is “making the ask.” The advice Cadigan provides is to locate a potential mentor and then sneak up on them. Don’t come out with an honest request, like “my career is a toxic waste site and I need someone to help me survive.” Instead, start by asking the mentor-to-be for a quick chat on something trivial, like your last raise. The minute you sit down, dump it on them: the unfair manager, the hateful co-workers, the tragic childhood where you were not allowed to have a $200,000 Trek Yoshimoto Nara bicycle, like the other kids.
If you get through your first meeting, start weaving yourself into their life. You could ask “if they mind if you touch base with them again,” as author Cadigan suggests, but I think it’s better to just show up unannounced at their home at dinnertime and spill your guts. This will make the mentor realize how much you need help, and you might even get a few free meals out of it.
Or you can take the traditional approach and just give your potential mentor a single, perfect rose and a Whitman Sampler. I don’t know about other mentors, but it would certainly work with me.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.